Famed Golden Age actress Ginger Rogers was a Hollywood legend that garnered a consistent amount of respect throughout her career. From her early days dancing alongside Fred Astaire, to her later years on Broadway, the award-winning actress never wanted for recognition during her lifetime. Recently, her longtime assistant has come out with some interesting details about the legendary actress’s private life. Join Facts Verse as Ginger Rogers’ former assistant reveals the truth about the Hollywood icon.
Ginger Rogers was born Virginia Katherine McMath on July 16, 1911. She was born in the town of Independence, Missouri, but was raised in nearby Kansas City. Her mother and father didn’t get along and separated shortly after she was born. Her father kidnapped her twice as a baby, actions that quickly resulted in him being removed from her life entirely.
Despite this early turbulence, Ginger’s mother was intent on giving her daughter a good life. Although she was initially a newspaper reporter, she became a scriptwriter for Fox Studios soon after Ginger was born. She knew she was going to have to work hard to make it on her own, and this feminist spirit was passed on. Even though Ginger became a staunch Republican and Christian Scientist in her adult years, she always remained incredibly independent and determined throughout her lifetime.
Ginger married and divorced five times, and never had children. When it came to her career, she was always in charge and dedicated. Even in her early years, she knew what she wanted. When she was nine years old, her mother married a new man and moved her to Fort Worth, Texas. At the age of 14, Ginger won a local dance contest, leading the young woman to become professionally interested in vaudeville. She ended up having a fairly successful career as a touring performer, which resulted in her landing a role in the 1929 Broadway production Top Speed.
Top Speed launched on Christmas Day, and Ginger was given a starring role in another production just a few weeks later. She was cast as the lead in the 1930 Broadway play Girl Crazy. Her performance was a hit, rocketing her to stardom overnight. Fred Astaire worked on the production as a dancing coach, and Ginger made quite the impression on him. A few years later, they went on to become a famous dancing duo on film.
Before pairing up with Fred Astaire, Ginger endured tenure at Paramount Pictures. This resulted in a few successes for the burgeoning actress, including a pair of films in 1933 titled 42nd Street and Gold Diggers of 1933. Later that year, she freed herself from her contract with Paramount, signing with RKO Pictures and joining Fred. They starred in a total of nine films, including 1934’s The Gay Divorcee and 1936’s Swing Time. After their films started losing traction with audiences, the pair amicably decided to split ways for the time being. The final film they released during this run was 1939’s The Story of Vernon and Irene Castle.
As it turns out, going out on her own was exactly the right move for Ginger. She began to transition into comedy and drama films, resulting in her becoming one of the biggest Hollywood stars of the 1940s. Her greatest success during this period came via her Academy Award winning performance in 1940’s Kitty Foyle.
Still under RKO Pictures, Ginger played the titular role in Kitty Foyle and stole the audience’s heart with her dramatic turn. The film was based upon Christopher Morley’s novel of the same name, with a script adapted by Dalton Trumbo. Although many criticized the film for not being as harrowing as the novel, the success of Ginger’s performance in particular resulted in her becoming one of the biggest box office draws of the ensuing decade. She stayed out her tenure with RKO Pictures before her contract ended in 1942. While she worked with other studios afterwards, including 20th Century Fox, she still maintained a working relationship with RKO Pictures throughout the 1940s.
Ginger was in several hits after her contract with RKO Pictures ended, even working with Paramount Pictures again in the 1944 musical film Lady in the Dark. In 1949, she reunited with Fred Astaire in The Barkleys of Broadway. Unlike the duo’s previous works, this one was produced and distributed by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer. As well, it was filmed in Technicolor. After a decade apart, fans were eager to see the famous dancing pair back together again. The film was a success, proving a bright cap to the decade for the both of them. However, neither star was ever going to reach the same heights that they had previously.
Despite having a couple of successes early in the decade, the 1950s didn’t prove as successful for Ginger as the 1940s. Although her performance in the 1955 film Tight Spot was widely praised by critics, the actress began to slowly fade from her starring role status in the eyes of the audience. After a disappointing few years in Hollywood, the actress returned to Broadway in 1965, performing as the lead in the musical Hello, Dolly!
Two decades later, Ginger directed her own off-Broadway theater production, Babes in Arms. Although she never quite found her way back into the spotlight, she worked consistently in television and theater until her death in 1995. Recently, her longtime personal assistant has rejuvenated the public’s interest in the late actress. If you’re enjoying this video so far, be sure to hit the like button to show your support! As well, subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when new and interesting Facts Verse videos are on their way!
Roberta Olden was Ginger Rogers’ personal assistant for a period of 18 years. This period began in 1977, long after Ginger’s peak in the spotlight. However, it still afforded Roberta an incredibly close understanding of the star as she entered into her later years. Their working relationship ended up growing into a close personal friendship, with the childless Ginger admitting that she began to see Roberta as something of a makeshift daughter.
Although Roberta didn’t work alongside Ginger during the peak of the star’s success, she was still afforded a vicarious life of decadence through her position as the late actress’s personal assistant. According to Roberta, working with Ginger allowed her to travel the world and experience a great deal of luxuries. Through it all, she shared that her boss was a very modest woman who enjoyed a fairly domestic and simple lifestyle.
Roberta shared that Ginger loved to cook, and the two of them could often be found indulging in home-cooked meals over episodes of Murder She Wrote. When it came to buying ingredients, the pair always grocery shopped together. Apparently, Ginger believed that picking out produce was a task that shouldn’t be relegated to other individuals. The pair also enjoyed playing golf and tennis. Despite Roberta being the younger of the two, she said that Ginger was typically the winner. Even in her later years, the actress apparently retained the spry physicality of her dancing days alongside Fred Astaire.
Among the luxuries that Roberta’s position allowed her was being privy to some of Ginger’s deeper thoughts. For instance, the late actress revealed to her that she felt that the true love of her life was her second husband, Lew Ayres. Ginger was married to Lew in 1936, and divorced in 1940. Still, the memories of the marriage were strong enough to stick with her until her death in 1995.
At the age of 22, Ginger was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. This meant she had to take insulin injections her whole life. In later years, her Christian Science faith made her hesitant to take her injections. Many believe this played a factor in her death.
Ginger was said to have died of natural causes, leaving all of her memorabilia and prized possessions to Roberta. Roberta’s recent effort to share more about Ginger with the public stemmed from nostalgia for her old boss and mother figure. Although Ginger is not quite the household name that Fred Astaire is, many believe her to have been the more talented of the two.
Fred Astaire himself was always keen on drawing as much attention to Ginger as possible, with him coming out later in life and saying that she was the most talented partner that he had ever worked with. According to him, she was the only partner that was able to keep up with his workflow without having a mental breakdown. As with many Hollywood partnerships, there were rumors surrounding their professional separation. Some wondered if the two had gone through a falling out, but they were both adamant that it was simply best for their careers.
Many have also raised the question of whether or not Ginger and Fred were ever romantically involved during their partnership. However, Fred was married to his wife in 1933, and Ginger married Lew Ayres in 1934. Ginger certainly wasn’t the type to cheat, and Fred’s wife was so strict that she prohibited him from actually kissing any of his on-screen love interests on film.
Due to her devout lifestyle, Ginger never drank or smoked. She lived out her final years in peace on her 400-acre ranch alongside the Rogue River in Oregon. Roberta worked for Ginger until her death, and enjoys spreading awareness of her late employer via anecdotes and inherited memorabilia. Ginger is certainly as much of a Hollywood icon as her longtime dance partner, and deserves to be remembered for it.
Whether performing on Broadway, off-Broadway, on television, or on film, Ginger Rogers certainly played a staggering number of characters during her long and expansive career in entertainment. Comment down below to share how you best remember Ginger Rogers, or if you think she should have had more mainstream success into the 1950s and beyond. As always, hit the like button to show your support, and subscribe and hit the notification bell if you’d like to be among the first to know when more Facts Verse videos are on their way!